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David Brown

Get me rewrite! What if replay had existed for these 10 plays?

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Tired of watching his umpires blow home-run calls, Bud Selig appears to be acting quicker than first expected to make use of replay a reality in baseball. Reports are flying that he is pushing for a system to be used for disputed home runs in games as early as Aug. 1. Reportedly, MLB favors an NHL-style system where replay gurus gather in a central location, probably New York (I recommend the Carnegie Deli) and watch for disputes. The head video guru would tell the crew chief at the game of his findings and then the ump would make the final call. Sounds great, if a little Orwellian.

That got us wondering: What if replay had been there for the Great Baseball Controversies of the past? How might history be different?

Follow the jump for Big League Stew's 10 Most Disputable Calls in Major League History and How Instant Replay Might Have Changed the Outcome:

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By Hooky or Crooky (10.09.1996)

Scenario: At a kid-friendly Yankee Stadium, a 12-year-old boy named Jeffrey Maier reaches playing over the right-field wall to snare an all-but-certain catch by Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco. Instead, umpire Rich Garcia rules it a home run for Derek Jeter, and the Yankees proceed to take Game 1 of the ALCS 5-4. They eventually win the series, and the first of four titles under manager Joe Torre.

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: After receiving word of the reversal, Yankee Stadium erupts in near-riot, the stands are cleared and the game is completed — with the O's winning — in front of no live audience. Out for blood, or possibly corned beef, 56,495 fans storm the Carnegie Deli and destroy the Replay Nerve Center. Buoyed by their quick start, the Orioles knock out the Yankees in six games, with David Wells winning twice. The Orioles fall to the Braves in the World Series, but smell blood in the water of the AL East. Unimpressed and kind of frightened by the New York scene, Wells ignores the free-agent overtures by the Yankees, re-signs with Baltimore, dons No. 3 — for Baltimore native Babe Ruth, his favorite player — and pitches a perfect game against New York in 1997. The Yankees miss the playoffs that season, fire Torre, dismantle the roster and lose 116 games in '98 with a payroll of $9 million. Whatever happened to the kid who caught Jeter's ground-rule double? A pretty good athlete in his own right, Maier played ball for Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Not good enough to reach the pros, Maier instead quickly worked his way through scouting and administration and, in a shocking move, was named general manager of the Yankees in 2008 at the age of 24.

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Royals' Blue (10.26.1985)

Scenario: At a delirious Royals Stadium, umpire Don Denkinger rules Jorge Orta safe on an infield single that sparks a ninth-inning rally for the Royals in a 2-1 victory against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the World Series. Cards manager Whitey Herzog protested the call, and TV replays showed conclusively that Denkinger had messed up. The Royals kept rolling in Game 7, taking the I-70 Series and their first and only world title.

Replay ruling: Overturned (big-time)!

Rendered Result: No longer dismayed by Denkinger's call, Jack Clark easily handles Steve Balboni's foul pop-up for the second out. Pinch hitters Hal McRae and Dane Iorg each single, putting runners at the corners, but Todd Worrell strikes out Lynn Jones for the third out and the Cardinals second World Series title in four seasons. Instead of hate mail and death threats, Denkinger receives only an envelope from TV's Ed McMahon saying that he might already have won $1 million dollars, so he retires to semi-seclusion in northern Quebec.

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Catcher in the Wry (10.12.05)

Scenario: At a confused U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox miscreant A.J. Pierzynski runs to first base after appearing to strike out against Kelvim Escobar, selling umpires that Angels catcher Josh Paul failed to catch the ball cleanly in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS. After pinch runner Pablo Ozuna steals second, Joe Crede hits a game-ending RBI double to left, helping the White Sox win the first of four straight, and the series, on their way to their first World Series title since 1917.

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: Paul bats with two outs in the 10th and hits what appears to be a homer, but Pierzynski points out to umpire Doug Eddings that Paul missed every base, including home. Eddings appeals to the other base umps, who deny it, but Eddings — apparently under some kind of spell — overrules himself and Paul is called out. He then tries to declare the White Sox the winner by forfeit, and A.J. Emperor of Poland, but is shackled by security and removed from the field. The Angels win in 12 innings, take the series in five games and delay the ChiSox's third world championship for at least another 88 years.

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Twins Power Lift (10.20.1991)

Scenario: At a Homer Hankie-waving Metrodome, Ron Gant hits an infield single but is called out after he appears to overrun the bag at first and is tagged by Kent Hrbek in Game 2 of the World Series. Atlanta's two-out rally ends, the Twins go on to win the game by a run and take the series — one of the closest and most-beloved in history — in seven games.

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: The direct quote from the Carnegie Deli was, "Give us a royal break, Hrbek." The Braves cannot take advantage of the proper call — they lose the game and the series as before — but it was nice to get some justice (David?) for li'l Ronnie Van Gant.

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Pudge Won't Budge (10.14.1975)

Scenario: At a Pete Rose-worshiping Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati's Ed Armbrister lays down a bunt in front of home and, on his way out of the batter's box, becomes entangled with Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk — who makes an errant throw into the outfield, putting the Reds in great position to win Game 3 of the World Series. If you didn't see the game, maybe you saw the film of the series, narrated by Joe Garagiola, that they used to show during rain delays. The grainy image with the "hi-tech" super slo-mo/stop-mo replay, and the awesome accompanying music that defies worded description. Wah-wah, wah-wah-wah-wah, wah-wah.

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: Armbrister is called out, the Reds don't score and Boston goes on to win Game 3. Fisk resurfaces in Game 6 with a famous 12th-inning homer off the pole in left field that clinches the Red Sox's first World Championship since 1918 and makes Robin Williams decision' in Good Will Hunting just a little more questionable. New England is spared any more talk of a Babe Ruth Curse. The Yankees unseat the Red Sox as AL champions in 1976 and '77, but the Red Sox — now with the psychological slate clean — win the '78 pennant by 10 games over a disappointing Yankees team that hires and fires manager Billy Martin four times between April and August alone. The Red Sox win another title, beating the Dodgers in six games, but fall into disrepair after injuries to Fisk — who would retire to become governor of Massachusetts and, eventually, Ambassador to the Court of St. James's — Fred Lynn and others. The franchise, which grows fat and content, falls into disrepair, as does historic Fenway Park. Tragedy strikes in 1990 when excavation from "The Big Dig" causes a sink hole to engulf much of the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood. The Green Monster falls on Mike Greenwell just before the first pitch on July 1, 1990. After a moment of silence, the Rangers beat the Red Sox, 5-1. Kevin Romine fills in for Gator and goes 1-4 with a walk.

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Holliday Chin (10.01.07)

Scenario: At a dizzy Coors field, Colorado's Matt Holliday dives face-first into home in the bottom of the 13th inning of the NL wild-card tiebreaker, scoring the winning run against San Diego and sending the Rockies to the NLDS in Philly. Replays appear to show that Padres catcher Michael Barrett blocked the plate but umpire Tim McClelland (Mr. George Brett Pine Tar) disagrees most nonchalantly.

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: With two outs, Todd Helton on first base, Brad Hawpe due up, the pitcher's spot (Russ Ortiz) on deck and the Rockies seriously low on more pitchers, the Padres consider walking Hawpe — but don't want to put the potential winning run in scoring position. Hawpe makes them pay the by lining Rockies fourth extra-base hit of the inning against Trevor Hoffman into the right-field corner. Brian Giles fires the ball into infielder Geoff Blum, who relays home to Barrett, who blocks the plate on a tumbling Helton, whose slide is even uglier than Holliday's. Out! But before the Padres all reach the dugout to hit in the 14th, McClelland's buzzer goes off. It's the Carnegie Deli. New York is reviewing this play, too. After review, it's overturned — a hair on Helton's goatee touched the plate before the tag - and the Rockies are going to the playoffs!

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Merkle's Boner (09.23.1908)

Scenario: At a cholera-infested Polo Grounds, Giants teen-ager Fred Merkle — some accounts say — made a baserunning blunder for the ages, failing to touch second base on what appeared to be a game-ending RBI single for Al Bridwell in a regular-season game against the Cubs. Fans rushed the field, the Cubs went to tag Merkle, confusion ensued, and umpire Hank O'Day — who had been warned about the possibility of such a scenario — ruled Merkle out. Amid the chaos, the game was declared a tie, which was how the regular season standings finished, too. The Cubs won a rematch at the Polo Grounds in October and later took the World Series for a second consecutive season.

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: Despite a lack of TV cameras (and a Carnegie Deli, est. 1937), National League officials awarded the Giants the pennant, denying the Cubs of a chance to win a World Series. No matter to Cubs owner Charles Murphy, who stepped up efforts in the ensuing seasons. The Cubs won five titles over the next decade, but their championship in 1919 was tainted by rumors that some members that the American League team which lost in the World Series — the crosstown White Sox — conspired to throw several of the games.

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Faster Than You Can Say Jack Robinson (09.28.1955)

Scenario: At a commie-fearing Yankee Stadium, Brooklyn's Jackie Robinson — who seven years earlier broke baseball's color barrier — tries to break the sound barrier by stealing home against lefty Whitey Ford (just now realizing the irony of his first name in this context) and catcher Yogi Berra in the eighth inning Game 1 of the World Series. Umpire Bill Summers rules Robinson safe, which brings the future boys from L.A. within a run against the Yanks. Berra goes berserk — and film of the play shows, at first, he had a right to be - and the Replay Rangers go to work. (By the way, this photo to the right isn't of the play we're talking about, but it's the only one we could find so use yer imagination.)

Replay ruling: The call stands.

Rendered Result: Berra called for interference for jumping in front of home plate to catch the ball. The Dodgers, who would go on to win the series anyway, still lose the game, 6-5. Robinson retires after the next season but stays on Earth long enough to give the best performance ever on Sesame Street for an ex-baseball player. Of the replay system, Berra would say, "You can observe a lot by watching."

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Swiped! (10.17.1999)

Scenario: At an angst-filled Fenway Park, umpires call out Red Sox baserunner Jose Offerman after Yankees' infielder Chuck Knoblauch applies a "tag" — which is to say he missed him completely — in the eighth inning of a then-up-for-grabs Game 4. The call killed what might have been a Red Sox rally, which might have helped them win the game and tie the series 2-2. Instead, the Yankees won the game, the series and then the World Series. The Yankees always win!

Replay ruling: Overturned!

Rendered Result: Well, it depends on which universe we're talking about. In the real one, with Offerman on second base and Nomar Garciaparra at the plate, Nomar lines out to left field and the Red Sox wait out the next five years until winning it all. But in the that other universe created here, where the Red Sox don't fear the Yankees anymore ... aw, who can keep track?

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Curse of the Foul Ball Guy (10.14.2003)

Scenario: At a blissfully ignorant Wrigley Field, the Cubs were five outs away from a long-awaited, goat-defying return trip to the World Series when Moises Alou had some issues trying to catch a foul ball near the left-field stands. Game 6 of the NLCS became forever smudged when a fan reached for the ball and interfered with Alou's catch attempt. The play wasn't made and the inning continued for the Marlins, who blew the doors off the Cubs and eventually took the pennant and title.

Replay ruling: The call stands.

Result: Uniformly certain that they had been robbed by replay judges and not by one of their own fans, Wrigley's faithful concentrated their wrath not on a solitary figure but on the replay system itself. Foul Ball Guy took a little grief, but nothing like what might have happened had there been no replay to throw disgruntled folks off his scent. In fact, no one even bothered to look up his name.

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